The Bears finally have a 2nd DT under contract. Whew! The Bears announced today that they have resigned DT Jeremiah (formerly Jay) Ratliff to a 2-yr deal. The financial details haven’t been disclosed yet, but it will be interesting to see what the market price is for a 32-year-old DT with a solid resume. In his prime, Ratliff was one of the best in the league at his position; He made 4 consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008-2011 and over that span had 19 sacks for the Cowboys and a 14.9 average grade from Pro Football Focus.
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Ratliff has only played in 11 games over the last two seasons, so injuries are a concern. On the bright side, those missed games mean less wear and tear. Ratliff did show some flashes of his Pro Bowl form in his 5 games with the Bears last season, but he also had some bad stretches (like the entire Packers game). Even if he’s not quite the player he was with the Cowboys, Ratliff is a definite upgrade over some of the DTs the Bears put out there last season (Cohen, Tupou, Minter). Signing Ratliff gives the Bears two solid options at the 1-technique DT with Stephen Paea being the other. There are still no 3-technique DTs on the roster but the Bears are reportedly working on a deal with Henry Melton, which would give the Bears two starting DTs with some question marks, but also Pro Bowl talent. If the Bears sign Melton and end up drafting DT Aaron Donald from Pitt with their 14th pick, then suddenly the DT position looks as close to a strength as any position on the defense.
Ratliff gave a few reasons for staying with the Bears including the addition of defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, who was Ratliff’s position coach in Dallas in 2010, and because he didn’t want to deal with free agency, but my favorite Ratliff quote was this one: “I liked what I saw in Chicago and I believe we have a chance to win. That is where I want to take my shot.” After last season’s debacle, I was skeptical about the Bears 2014 defense, but I am starting to feel better about it and I like all of the moves Emery has made so far this off-season. Hopefully signing Henry Melton is his next one!
Ratliff is the 10th free agent the Bears have resigned from their roster last year which is the most in the league.